Before reading this, be aware that this blog entry contains major spoilers about the denouement of the film Now You See Me (2013), so if you are planning to see it, I recommend not to read this.
Now You See Me is light-hearted, quick-paced summer entertainment for the multiplex audience. In this sense, the film fulfils its purpose religiously, offering a well-calculated combination of action scenes and plot twists which are meant to keep spectators at the edge of their seats. All of this is brightly wrapped up in a glossy mise-en-scène, dizzying camera work and break-neck editing pace. Morgan Freeman and Michael Cane are also there to provide some respectability and acting credentials to the product. So, the film delivers what it promises.
Now You See Me tells the story of four magicians who, a la Robin Hood, steal money from the rich on stage to give it to the poor. However, they do not work alone, as they are following a meticulous plan laid by a mysterious man whose identity is not revealed till the resolution. As the film was approaching the end and running out of possible "suspects", I was wondering: how are they going to solve this satisfactorily? Well, the answer is simple: they don't. The denouement of this movie brought to my mind a very different one: Adaptation (2002) by Spike Jonze (director) and Charlie Kaufman (screenplay). In this film, Nicholas Cage plays Charlie Kaufman himself, a highly dedicated scriptwriter struggling with his latest assignment. His anguish increases when his twin brother hits the big time in Hollywood overnight with an absurd screen play: a dumb psychological thriller in which the protagonist, who has a split personality is both the hero and the villain of the story, literally "chasing himself" in an action sequence. How it this even possible?, wonders the angst-ridden character of Jonze's film, who sees how his dedication to his craft is not enough to make it in Hollywood. The film, with the indie credentials of his creators and its quirky premise, is meant to poke fun at mainstream Hollywood's increasingly "incredible" plot moves and failed attempts at originality - but always within highly calculated safe parameters of investment, of course. I never thought I'd get to see this absurd plot twist actually taken to the big screen, but I have. And what is more, I have paid to see it. Although Now You See Me's protagonist does not suffer from a split personality, he does chase himself throughout the whole film. Morgan Freeman's incredulous look in one of the closing scenes thus mirrors the spectators' puzzled reaction at the discovery that the Hollywood thriller they believed to be watching is actually a parody. A parody of itself.